How To Talk To Anyone is a collection of actionable tips to help you master the art of human communication, leave great first impressions and make people feel comfortable around you in all walks of life.
One of the greatest things about knowing yourself well is that you can tell other people how you function. Give them an instruction manual, so to speak. One of the worst things about doing so is that they then tend to box you in. Whenever I tell people I’m an introvert, they somehow expect me to never leave the house. That’s nonsense, of course.
Human behavior lies on a spectrum. Always. And besides each situation being different, you can also train yourself to change. Like Leil Lowndes, who turned from a shy school teacher into a flight attendant, actress, cruise director, and later even coach, talk show host and speaker! How To Talk To Anyone is one of her many books on communication, highlighting 92 of her best tips for being successful in human relationships.
It’s a very practical how-to guide, so let’s see some of the specific advice she has to offer:
A seamless introduction will almost always lead to a fluent chat.
Emulating people and empathizing with them makes it easy for them to become your friend.
Praise is useful, but keep your most specific compliments to family and close friends.
Ready for a rapid-fire session of quick communication hacks? Let’s get to it!
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Lesson 1: Smooth introductions tend to turn into good conversations.
The part we sweat the most when meeting new people is always the first ten seconds. Often, that’s the only part we’re sweating. If you’ve ever talked to a stranger, you know this is true. Once you’ve gotten over that initial hurdle, things usually go just fine. That’s why Leil suggests simply skipping that first, potentially awkward part. How? By getting an introduction!
If you’re at an event, ask the host to introduce you. You’ll both know them, which makes for an instant connection. Another option is to ask the host for a few details about the person, which you can use to strike up a conversation. Or just linger close by and observe their other conversations until you can drop in. Introverts could also bring a flashy conversation starter, like a dashing outfit or a gimmick, as well as smile, nod, and wave.
And if you’re trying to replicate this online, email introductions work well, if a mutual acquaintance makes them. I use them all the time. There, you can even use whatever information you find to show you’re prepared, which is called the briefcase technique. Oh, and if you’re the host, make sure you help your guests do the same!
Lesson 2: Mimicry and companionship are two powerful ways to form a connection.
The easiest way to get people to like you is to keep them talking about themselves. But while it’s nice that you don’t have to say all that much, eventually it’ll be your turn, or maybe you love to talk too. So what else can you do once the introduction is made? Two powerful tools, Lowndes says, are mimicry and companionship. Here’s what she means:
First, people will subconsciously feel comfortable around you if your and their movements are the same. If they use their hands a lot, use yours too, and so on. Another thing I tend to do naturally is to use the same words to describe the same things. What’s more, if you know they like something, use vocabulary from that area, for example call them “mate” if they enjoy sailing.
Second, showing people you’re on the same page goes a long way. I tend to interject affirmations like “yes” and “uh-huh,” but Leil suggests full sentences are better at achieving the same. If you can refer to you and your conversation partner as “we” and “us,” that’s also a win. Saying “how do you like our new cinema” puts you on the same team, an in-group, if you will. This will also lead to in-jokes quickly, which are one of the best ways to strengthen bonds over time.
Nothing like a running gag to keep spirits high, ain’t that right?
Lesson 3: The better you know someone, the more specific you should be in your praise.
One of the most common tips to get along well is to give people compliments. That’s true, but according to Leil, there are some misconceptions around the idea of praise, especially when it comes to when and how to deliver it. As a rule of thumb, the more you know and appreciate someone, the more detailed and frequent you can be in telling them.
For example, if you’re working together with someone for the first time, tell a mutual colleague to let them know they did great. If you do it personally, make it indirect, for example by stating their achievement as a fact and then asking them how they did it. Or ask for their opinion, which is something that makes us feel valued every time.
If you know someone well, like a close friend or someone you’re keen on dating, you can commend them for their performance right after an important event. And for the most special people in your life? Highlight their best, specific traits you admire. Maybe it’s their sense of humor, maybe it’s their humility, but life is short, so let those closest to you know why you love them in many ways.
My personal take-aways
As you can tell from my summary, How To Talk To Anyone is very practical, focused on little tricks you can try today. It’s important to not overdo it on books like these, because you’ll drown in tactics you’ll never employ, but the occasional experiment is very useful indeed. Give some of what we discussed a shot and if you feel ready for more, consider getting a copy of the book.